italian marinated eggplant & my whole 30 week 3 recap

melanzane sottolio
Me: I did it!
You: What have you done?
Me: I’ve completed my third week of the Whole 30! I’ve cruised through the half way point, even went out to eat and found something on the menu to suit me without a hitch. I’m feeling absolutely incredible physically, mentally, and emotionally, and now I’m headed to an awesome festival in Costa Rica for the next 8 days and I intend to stick to the plan!

[Screeching halt of breaks. A spotlight centers on the dialogue bubbles.]

You: How do you intend to do that… there?
Me: I don’t really know…
But I’m trying my best to figure out how!
I’ve packed a bunch of nuts and some other Whole 30 approved dry goods, I plan to hit a fruit stand on my way to the event to get some avocados and other tropical deliciousness, and then I hope that they’ll be serving fresh caught fish and other tasty grilled meats once I’m there. I won’t have a way to cook for myself but I have no problem asking for what I need and a majority of the people I will be with eat healthy too.

I just really hope I can resist the nectar of the agave gods while I’m down there. Good tequila is my weakness. Instead, I will drink in the sunrises and sunsets and imbibe the high vibes of all the other party goers. This will be the greatest test of will I’ve ever faced in this lifetime and it will certainly be nothing short of phenomenal. Wish me luck!

Bet you thought I was going to play the tequila song, didn’t you? Psych! I grew up on the Eagles so this is what song comes to mind first when I think about that muy bueno inebriant that makes me feel so muy bueno… lest I digress.

So, on to this week’s recipe!

I’ve been craving a burger and was wondering what I could use in place of a bun, then this recipe came to mind…
When I lived in Italy and worked in the kitchen of Casa Cares, this was a favorite of mine. In Italian, it’s called “melanzane sott’olio” which literally translates to eggplant (or aubergine, depending where you hail from) under oil. It’s simple to prepare yet it takes time, most of which is inactive, but it’s so tasty it’s so very worth it.
marinated eggplant ingredients
Italian Marinated Eggplant (aka Melanzane Sott’olio)

Prep time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Active prep time: 15 minutes
Ready in: 2 hours 45 minutes
Serves 4-6

1 large eggplant (about 1 pound)
¾ cup chopped italian parsley
3 cloves chopped garlic
2 cups extra virgin olive oil

  • Slice the eggplant into half inch thick rounds. It’s important they’re all the same thickness so they roast evenly. In a mixing bowl, place one layer then salt them, add another layer and salt, and another until all the rounds are in the bowl with salt on them. Let them sit for 2 hours or more to allow the salt to leach the water out of them.
  • When 2 hours are up, preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
  • Oil the bottom of a baking sheet (preferably non stick), drain the water from the bowl and arrange the eggplant in a single layer.
  • Roast for 30 minutes then flip each piece and roast for another 10 minutes. During that 10 minute interval, chop the garlic and parsley.
  • Find a dish with a lid and, one layer at a time, add a piece of eggplant, sprinkle with garlic and parsley, drizzle with oil, until you’ve added all the pieces, then cover with oil.
  • Cover and let marinate for at least an hour, then serve.

*Because there is raw garlic in this dish, I recommend eating it within a few days or else it goes bad. No need for botulism here!

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Since I will be in Costa Rica next week through the weekend, I won’t be able to post my regularly scheduled blog but I am going to try to continue making daily updates to my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, so you can peep my adventures there.

Hope you enjoy and have fun cooking!

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roasted pine nut hummus

roasted pine nut hummus
Hummus is a Mediterranean dip made of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), tahini (sesame seed paste), garlic, lemon juice, and spices. I’ve been a hummus connoisseur for quite some time and I wasn’t super fond of many that were out on the market so I started trying to make it myself. For several years I could never get it quite right, following recipes from cookbooks or off other sites, then one day I discovered the secret… it’s all about warm beans! Say goodbye to chunky hummus with a watery consistency! I prefer to start from dried beans but if you decide to use canned beans (which is totally okay) heat them up for about 5 minutes. Definitely don’t cook them as long as I indicate or they will get hard and… not so delicious.

This recipe is smooth, creamy, and very flavorful with the roasted pine nuts… I think I’ve finally perfected it and it may just be the best darn hummus you ever did eat!
pine nuts banner
Roasted Pine Nut Hummus

Prep time: 9 hours
Active prep time: 1 hour
Makes about 4 cups

1 cup dried garbanzo beans
6 cups pure water
3 garlic cloves
½ cup raw pine nuts
2 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoon cumin
pinch of cayenne
dash of paprika

  • Soak the dried garbanzo beans (chickpeas) in 3 cups of pure water overnight or at least 8 hours.

Now there’s a lot of things you could do in 8 hours. You could sleep, have a full work day, go for a long adventure in nature, read an enthralling book, or a whole bunch of other things… but if you have no idea what you’re going to do for the eight hours while you’re beans are soaking, I’d like to recommend you check out this captivating and inspirational full length movie called Thrive on YouTube. Disclaimer: It’s only 2 hours long but it will likely change the way you look at the world forever, in the most wondrous way.

Well, how was it?!

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Using a colander, strain the water from the soaked beans and rinse them thoroughly. Add them to a large measuring cup, if you have one, and you will see they’ve about doubled in size to 2 cups. Fill the measuring cup with pure water up to the 4 cup mark then add the contents to a heavy large pot and bring to a boil.

soaked garbanzo beans in measuring cup

  • Once boiling, reduce to low heat, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, peel and trim the ends from 3 cloves of garlic and wrap them together in a small piece of aluminum foil. Roast them in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until soft but not mushy.
  • Spread the pine nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast them for 5 minutes. It’s crucial not to over roast them! 1: they taste terrible when over done and 2: they’re kinda pricey but really give this recipe the special flavor it needs.
  • Set aside a tablespoon of the roasted pine nuts and add the rest along with the roasted garlic to a food processor or heavy duty blender. Turn on low for about 1 minute until almost a paste consistency and scrape the sides using a spatula.
  • Strain but reserve the liquid from the cooked beans.
  • Add the garbanzos, tahini, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, cumin, and pinch of cayenne and blend on high, adding ¼ cup of the bean liquid at a time until you reach your desired consistency. I usually add somewhere between 1 cup and 1½ cups. Note: it will thicken as it cools.
  • Add salt to taste, transfer to a dish, sprinkle with paprika and reserved roasted pine nuts, drizzle with olive oil and serve as a snack or appetizer with veggies, pita, or crackers. It will keep for up to a week in the fridge.

Enjoy!

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As always, I welcome your thoughts in the comments section below!

strozzapreti aka amaze balls

Amaze Balls In Your Mouth

Strozzapreti is an Italian dish I learned while working in a Tuscan guesthouse under the direction of an amazing cook. These spinach and cheese dumplings make great appetizers and as I found out this past weekend, a spectacular brunch item. I brought this dish to a ladies potluck brunch and as you can see from the picture above, it was a hit! All the ladies loved them and they have aptly changed the name from strozzapreti to “amaze balls”. I have to agree, they are pretty amazing. You can’t help but want to put at least one or two of these balls in your mouth. Speaking of which:

Strozzapreti literally translates to “priest choker”. I cannot confirm the story behind their name other than the possibility that they are so delicious, if eaten too quickly, one might choke. Or perhaps it’s because they are sinfully delicious? Oh yes, that could definitely be it…

For this recipe, I use frozen spinach and I have been asked if fresh spinach could be used instead. I’m sure it can be however I’ve personally never done it. The recipe calls for 3 pounds which is quite a voluminous fresh amount. Also, the spinach mixture can’t exude too much moisture or else the balls will fall apart before they make it in your mouth! I have tried making these gluten free, using rice flour, and they paled in comparison to the original. If anyone successfully adapts this recipe using fresh spinach or finds a comparable gluten free alternative, I’d love to learn your strategy!

For the sake of ease, I use three 1 pound bags of frozen spinach and take them out of the freezer to thaw at least 8 hours before I start prepping. This recipe is really quite easy and fun, especially if you like getting your hands covered in gooey goodness!

prepping the strozzapreti

Strozzapreti aka Amaze Balls

Prep time: 15 minutes
Ready in: 1 hour 15 minutes
Yield: 35 amaze balls

3 pounds of thawed (previously frozen) spinach
3 cloves chopped garlic
15 ounces fresh ricotta
1 pastured egg
½ cup bread crumbs
2 teaspoons nutmeg
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
¾ cup chopped fresh sage
8 ounces grass fed butter
2 cups fresh shredded parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Put thawed spinach into a colander and squeeze out as much moisture as possible.

Transfer the spinach to a large mixing bowl and add the chopped garlic, ricotta, egg, bread crumbs, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Using a spoon, stir until well combined.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 9″ x 13″ casserole dish and using your hands, roll the mixture into 1¾” balls and place them in pan. Usually, I can perfectly fit about 35 balls in a dish.

After all your balls are rolled and ready, put the dish in the oven and set your timer to 35 minutes.

In the meantime, chop the sage, shred the parm, and cube the butter. When about 10 minutes remain, add the sage and butter to a saucepan over medium heat and stir until butter is melted.

After the 35 minutes is up, remove the dish from the oven, spoon the sage butter mixture evenly over the balls, and then cover with shredded parmesan. Return the dish to the oven and bake for 15 more minutes.

When time’s up, remove the dish from oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes.

You can enjoy them as is or eat them atop a slice of ciabatta bread. Either way, enjoy them to the last buttery drop!

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strozzapreti out of the oven

simple spicy sesame green beans

spicy sesame green beans close up
I love green beans! Growing up eating them exclusively out of a can, when I discovered their fresh flavor, I was forever a convert. I will gladly never eat them out of a can again. So long jolly green bland beans…

Right after Thanksgiving is a great time to score a sweet deal on fresh green beans, also called string beans or French beans if your British (Wait, what?). They’re high in fiber, rich in Vitamin A, and full of antioxidants. They are a delicious snack eaten raw, and they are naturally fat free. Can I get a heck yes?!

This recipe is super easy and fast, makes a fantastic side dish, and the spiciness is a nice departure from the casseroles of recent weeks.

Simple Spicy Sesame Green Beans

Prep time: 3 minutes
Ready in: 12 minutes
Serves 4 as a side dish

1 pound green string beans
2 medium size cloves chopped garlic
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
3 tablespoons tamari
2 tablespoons sesame oil

Rinse and trim the ends of the green beans and steam in a covered pot with 2 inches of water or steamer basket for 8 minutes.

Totally unrelated, check this out for a laugh and a sing along while your beans are steaming:


Jim Henson was a genius! Don’t you think?

Okay, now back to the beans…

After 8 minutes transfer to a heavy skillet over medium heat and quickly add the remaining ingredients in descending order and sauté on high heat for one minute.

Remove from heat and serve.

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spicy sesame green beans serving

Tis the season for green beans and the Muppets. Ode to Joy!

Your thoughts are welcomed in the comments section below.